Priest tells Samareños to keep the faith
GUIUAN, Eastern Samar, Philippines—An altar under a pitch-tent, plastic stools to sit on and flickering Christmas lights that illuminate the makeshift manger greeted Catholic faithful here as they started the Simbang Gabi (dawn masses) at the ruins of what used to be their 16th century church.
The Guiuan church or the La Purisima Concepcion was touted to be one of the most beautiful Spanish colonial structures in the country.
It was even considered a national cultural treasure by the National Commission for Culture and Arts (NCCA) and by the National Museum.
But it is now gone.
And the altar, plus the manger depicting the birth of the Holy Nazarene with the three Kings paying homage “are just what we need to keep the tradition alive,” said Father Lope Robredillo, the parish priest.
The survivors of supertyphoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) here are still dealing with the loss of loved ones home and church but they know they have to move on.
“I did not cry when my house was destroyed, but as I walked and saw the ruins of the church, I began to be very emotional and could not help myself,” Wayne Abriol, 63, said.
Abriol said the church meant so much for her.
“I was baptized in this church, got married in this church, had the death of my father and mother solemnized here and my brother, an uncle and a nephew got ordained as priests in this church,” Abriol said.
Theresa Sevilla Makawili, 63, said for hundreds of years, the church was a silent witness to the life here.
It withstood so many events — including the bloody insurrection against Spain — but it only took an hour for Yolanda to flatten it.
“The church was very important to us, it was like the centerpiece of our lives, it’s been a symbol of our faith, Makawili said.
She said the loss of the church could be God’s way of testing their faith and “of course we won’t lose hope.”
Father Amabe Moslares, whose first assignment was the ruined church, mentioned plans to build a new one.
“But I’m not sure yet if it’s going to be built on the same spot or in another area,” he said.
He said there have been talks of restoring it.
Morales said he had always known of the church’s fragility as it was worn down by time and was not shocked that Yolanda swept it away.
This was the same reason why he had stopped people from trying to seek cover in the edifice at the height of the typhoon.
“A lot of them got mad at me but after the typhoon, they saw how it succumbed. They now thank me for not allowing them in,” he said.
Moslares said he has been reminding people that like the destroyed church, their lives would soon be rebuilt.
“What they should do is remain steadfast in their faith,” he said.
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